How To Be A Content Creator and Marketing Consultant: Meet Sara McQueen

Current City: Leeds, UK

Hometown: Elgin, UK

“I felt as though I had hit rock bottom when I started, and perhaps that helped. The only way is up, right?”

Hi Sara!!  Welcome to The Boss Diary! So glad you’re here. Tell me all about your work as a Content Creator.

Hello! I’m so pleased to be here! I started out as a copywriter whilst studying English Literature and French at Glasgow University. I’d always been a keen photographer, and then when I started working in marketing agencies, I started to figure out where my strengths were. I am a big planner by nature, a creative soul and a bit of a social butterfly when I get in my stride, so I love meeting potential clients, creating simple but effective content plans, and writing even the tiniest snippet of copy with the big picture in mind.

My clients are usually business coaches and health and wellness experts. They are brilliant at what they do, but struggle sometimes to come up with engaging content, and that’s where I step in. We talk branding, goals for the future and dream clients. Then, I write blogs, shoot photos and create and curate social media feeds. Even in a world where it seems like followers mean everything, it’s really the one to one interactions that make the difference. People often forget that – but a single sale is an interaction between two. We aren’t working to make the product or service appeal to everyone, but we must be able to capture the attention and imagination of the right people. As soon as they arrive onsite or on a social media profile, we want them to think ‘wow, this is exactly what I need right now, but I didn’t even realise/forgot this existed’.

I love your blog and the content you create for bloggers and entrepreneurs.. Tell me more about your blog and how it started.

My first blog was inspired by my time abroad. I lived in France for a year, teaching French to grumpy teenagers by day and travelling on the weekends. When I got back to Scotland, I remember realising how little I had seen of my home country. Living in a tiny French town, I would go to Paris for the weekend ‘just because’. I had never treated my home town with the same curiosity. I would always wait for a purpose, and not explore for the sake of exploring. I wanted to change that, but I suppose I still felt like I needed a reason to go exploring on my own, so I started blogging.

It started out with blogging about Glasgow/Scottish days out, and encouraging people to be tourists in their own city. Around this time, I was also diagnosed with severe Depression (it took years to get the ‘correct’ diagnosis) and I found that I wanted to write about that, too. Writing has always been my therapy. It helps me consolidate, allows me to reframe my thoughts and emotions. I don’t think it’s a solution for everyone. Sometimes people get in touch to thank me for being open, and whilst this is amazing and the best kind of message to receive, I also feel as though I get some kind of closure from writing about my experiences.

My new website has only been live for a few weeks, but I started with a very clear idea of what I wanted to talk about on the blog. I focus on: Attracting Dream Clients; Looking After Yourself; Understanding Your Business; Writing with Confidence. I want to make a space where frazzled entrepreneurs can quickly get to grips with any content creation queries, but also promote self-care. So many people are trying to do so many things at the moment. Every time I log on to Facebook or Instagram I’m hit with ads for courses, seminars, business training; and that’s great, but it’s easy to get disheartened and forget to put your basic needs first, no matter how hard you want to hustle.

We all know that it can be challenging to start a new career and let go of the fear that holds us back. Can you tell me how you got started as a Content Creator?

Honestly? I felt as though I had hit rock bottom when I started, and perhaps that helped. The only way is up, right? My mental health was in tatters. My OCD and Anxiety, which had always been there but had only just been diagnosed, had always taunted me with an ultimatum. The voices in my head would tell me you’re useless and you’re going to lose your job. After a stressful few months of working full-time hours at a marketing agency, plus building a copywriting business and a network marketing business on evenings and weekends, and regular travel to see my long-distance partner, I was exhausted. Not to mention, my medication was all over the place. Doctors and psychiatrists only very recently connected my mood swings to my menstrual cycle, and before that I was being screened for ADHD, Bipolar Disorder… I felt as though I had no control at all over my situation.

I asked my employers for more support with my work struggles, but it was too late. My GP signed me off with severe anxiety and depression for 4 weeks, and I went home to my parents, teary and feeling more vulnerable than I had in a long time.

I decided to quit my full-time job after my parents assured me that they could support me financially whilst I sorted out my mental health. I recognise that I am incredibly lucky that my family could do this for me, but it was still one of the hardest things. I felt like such a failure, but now, looking back, I appreciate far more what a bad place I was in. I needed help, even if I desperately wanted to be independent, be ‘the boss girl’ I thought I was. 

Sometimes, being a boss means accepting help, recognising where you are vulnerable, and admitting that you can’t actually do it all, at least not all at once.

I had a few freelance copywriting clients already, so I reached out to them for more work, and built my new content creation business a website with the wonderful Jessica Pacey. I went for regular meetings with my psychiatrist in Glasgow, and then decided to move down to Leeds, to be with my partner of 4 years. After pitching a few times, I made just shy of 1000 pounds in my first month of freelancing. It was nowhere near a full-time wage, but it was a start. And in fact, my story is still fairly new – I was signed off of my job in March 2018 and I’m writing this in May.

I love the fact that you are open and transparent about your mental health. Has this transparency helped you connect with your online audience? In what ways has being open about mental health affected you as an influencer?

I think it probably has helped with connections. When I talk about my mental health being bad … it’s usually on Instagram stories so it is very unfiltered. I am blown away by the response. People from my past, or people who I’ve never met,  reach out and tell me that it helps them to know other people are going through similar things. That’s hugely comforting to me, too. 

I try to always open the conversation by explaining that I am okay in that moment, it is not a cry for help, but that I am trying to be open about the complicated parts of mental illness. When I’m in the midst of a serious episode, I tend to feel dissociated from the world and myself. I remember once, after a long period of insomnia, only being able to convince myself that I was real by taking a photo of myself. 

Is that the most millennial thing ever? Saved by selfies? Perhaps! 

I didn’t do anything with the photos – but I did keep them to remind myself that I can find my way back. As an influencer, it was implausible for me to have a presence on social media and not mention mental health. My medication, obsessions, quirks, difficulties, counselling, are all such a big part of my life. But I don’t see it as a negative, either. I think that we all get unique bodies and brains and life is about learning to use and enjoy them to their fullest. It’s not about forcing one or the other to fit in too much to any ideal.

Today’s age is all about ‘The Digital Age.’ With a powerful advertising platform such as Instagram, brands can reach a wider audience. In what ways do you think Instagram has helped you build your brand?

I am a very visual person who also likes to write. Instagram is by far my favourite platform. I tend to have very long, but still crafted, captions alongside visuals. It’s like a mini blog, and I love exploring hashtags, connecting with people whose images catch my eye, and just looking at all the amazing creative images that possibly only exist due to this platform. As much as it can cause comparison traps, I think it has also led to some really interesting, creative ideas. If I feel myself in a slump creatively, I go to Instagram. Also – I have made so many wonderful friends on this platform! My website designer and I met on Instagram before we met in real life, and now we have weekly catch-ups because we get on so well. It’s lovely. 

Tell me one thing that most people may not know about you

Umm … how crippling anxiety can be? I come across as quite confident, I think, but often I am melting on the inside and it’s only the people closest to me who really see it. But that isn’t fun – a more fun one would be that I was the top, under 11s female chess player in the UK when I was ten! I didn’t even qualify for the semifinals the following year so it was definitely a fluke, but I still have a trophy somewhere!

Name one thing that your hometown city is known for that some people may not know. 

Elgin is known for roundabouts and whisky. Glasgow is known for a few things, but if you ever visit, then the best views are from the top of the necropolis hill, and from the top floor of The Lighthouse on Mitchell Street. Also – there is amazing street art in Glasgow. I keep finding more.

Where would you like to be five years from now?

I would love to be a volunteer puppy walker for Guide Dogs Association! Working freelance as a content creator is basically step one in my very elaborate plan to build a life where I can work from home and look after puppies 50% of the time, and still travel the rest of the time when the puppies have grown up and gone to Guide Dog School. And then when I get back, I’ll get another puppy to train! I’ve got it all figured out. Geography-wise, I think we’ll end up back in Scotland at some point, but for now I’m really enjoying Leeds life and trying something a bit different.

What is one piece of advice you would give to women out there who are looking to start their own business?

Don’t be afraid to own what you want. I used to be too scared to say what I really wanted in life in case it didn’t happen. I somehow thought it would be worse to admit ‘I want to work in a flexible, creative job’ and then see it not happen, than it would be to just keep quiet and try and fit in to something. Mindset is such a huge part of running a business. You have to really believe you can do it. If, right now, you don’t think you can do it, then get mentors, see a professional to work on your mindset and self-belief. I believe you can do it, but you have to be trained and ready, just like an athlete, or a chef, or any other kind of career!

Now let’s get a little more personal! Tell me your favorite:

  • Summer activity: I am getting into gardening, which may be problematic in my new flat with no garden! I have spent the week repotting my grandfather’s fuschias in my mum’s garden, and I’m already plotting how to cram as much greenery into our new, one-bed as possible!
  • Restaurant in your neighborhood: I’ve only been in Leeds a few months so I still consider Glasgow as my beloved neighbourhood. Paesano for pizza, Meadow Road Cafe for vegan brunch and Julie’s Kopitiam for Asian food.
  • Podcast: The Influencer Podcast … Julie Solomon, I want to drink green juice with you in Cali someday!
  • Lipstick: I’m an Arbonne convert – Lily is a lovely summer pink.
  • Color: Lilac
  • Bravo t.v. housewife (wait…do you watch the housewives?): I don’t! I recently started rewatching Desperate Housewives though – so can I say Gabriela? She is too much, and yet I can’t get enough.
  • Disney movie: The original Alice in Wonderland

And let’s get a little more personal, shall we:

  • If you won $20 million dollars in the lottery, what would you do with that money? Clean up the planet a little. I’ve recently gotten very panicky about plastic – I want to do a plastic-free challenge so I would spend the money on a big litter picking/sea cleaning party that the world is invited to.
  • How would you describe your best friend in 3 words? Strength in vulnerability
  • What is the last good book that you’ve read? I’m not finished it yet, but enjoying it so much! Ursula Le Guin – the first four Earthsea books. She had a beautiful imagination.
  • What’s your favorite song on your current dance playlist? Confidence – Raye
  • Number one travel destination in the world? One day, I really want to go to St Kilda! It’s one of the most remote places in the world – takes a good few hours to get there by boat from the Scottish mainland, and it has some unique history and wildlife.
  • Who is your male celebrity crush? Recently I was lucky enough to go, very last minute, to a Harry Styles concert. I was fully prepared to laugh at all the screaming girls and by the end, I was one of them. Well played, Harry.
  • 3 things on your bucket list? Look after lots of dogs, go on a working holiday and just lounge on the beach and write, and surprise my boyfriend with a weekend away someday when I have the money (Callum if you’re reading this, please act surprised when this happens).